So, I've been making Bento...

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I've taken up Bento as a hobby. A bento is a Japanese lunch box featuring small amounts of a variety of intricately arranged foods. The more popular bentos of this age are made to be cute, a quality derived from using things like tiny cookie cutter style veggie cutters for carrots, cucumbers, and the like. As illustrated by this image which is borrowed from Just Bento.

As you can see, bento can be ridiculously cute ^_^
BTW, this bento by Delphine.

Bento is more than food, it's an art form, a method of meditation, and a way to show special someones how much you care about them. This is a much more common practice in Japan where the degree of sentimentality attached to bento making has been employed quite effectively in commercials. This one I made me cry. Scroll about halfway down the page on Just Bento then go back and read it. Makiko Itoh does an incredible job of explaining the difference between a lunch box and a bento.

I began making bento yesterday and have since gone on a bit of a shopping spree on for some crazy nifty bento gear. I have rice molds, egg molds, veggie cutters, silicon treat cups (for cute separators), and super fab egg molds shaped like a bunny and a bear. I'm also heading up to the Fortune Supermarket in Va Beach to gather other tidbits like miso, azuki beans (red bean), chopsticks in a case, a real bento box, and any other little accessories that leap off the shelves into my sticky mitts for purchase.

So far I've made five bento. I've learned it can be very time consuming until you start to get into the habit of a couple hours of prep work. The cool thing is that the couple hours of prep needed to really streamline the daily bento beat can be done once a week. Wash your veggies, cut them into the shapes, lengths, and styles you envision yourself using over the week and pop them into storage containers with water. Make sure there is enough water to cover the pieces and toss the lot into the fridge. Onions, peppers, and whatnot can be cut and loaded into a water free container for quick cooking later. Cook your rice and use Saran or cling wrap to form them into balls. You Tube it if you can't figure out how. Let them cool a bit on the counter or what have you and then stash them into a freezer bag, cling wrap and all, to be used a later date. When you need to tuck a ball into a bento, either leave it frozen or slip it into the microwave for about 1-2 minutes (depending on size). To properly nuke it, so it doesn't dry out or turn into a rock on you, leave it in the cling wrap while heating. The sparkly little ice crystals on the inside will keep it deliciously moist. You can also boil your eggs about three days worth at a time, but really, two days is tastier.

I've also discovered the more variety you provide, the more interesting and palatable the meal will seem. Toy with the possibilities for texture, flavour, appearance, and even scent to offer the most memorable bento. Have fun with it and remember to share your efforts with others when you can.

These are the first five I've made, in order:

Bento #1

Fritata-ish thingy made w/two eggs, broccoli, sweet peppers, onions, cheese + Sauteed green beans with minced garlic + 1/2 cup of canned Succotash + Sweet grape tomatoes + Mountain Black Berries + Rice ball with toasted sesame seeds
@37 mins

Bento #2
(made 4 my cuddle-bug)

 Rice ball with toasted sesame seeds + Blue Smurf Animal Crackers + Terriyaki steak strips with onions and sweet peppers + Cucumbers, carrots, celery, and a sweet grape tomato + Sauteed green beans with minced garlic + Cup of ranch + Smiling rice heart
@18 mins
Bento #3 
(breakfast bento)
 Omelet with two eggs, broccoli, sweet peppers, onions, mushrooms, sweet and spicy tuna, and cheese heart + Hash brown patty cut in half  + Crisp green beans + Tangerine wedges + Mountain Blackberries + New York sharp cheddar cheese cubes + Sweet grape tomatoes
omelet close up
@23 mins
Bento #4

 Sweet and spicy tuna + Captain's wafers + Rice ball with toasted sesame seeds + Carrots, cucumbers, celery + Glazed sweet potato chips + Sauteed green beans with minced garlic + NY Sharp Cheddar cheese cubes + Sweet grape tomatoes + Mountain Blackberries + Tapioca pudding + Smurf Animal Crackers
@14 mins

Bento #5
+ Rice ball with toasted sesame seeds + Sweet and spicy tuna + Captains wafers + Sauteed Green beans with minced garlic + Sweet grape tomatoes + Mountain Blackberries + Celery, carrots, cucumbers + NY Sharp Cheddar cheese cubes + Glazed sweet potato chips + Smurf Animal Crackers
@17 mins

As you can tell, practice greatly improves the appearance of your bento. These were loads of fun to make and sooo yummy! My ordered goodies should be here in time for tomorrows bento, so I'll post an update soon. Until then, keep it tasty! 


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